SCSU Athletes And Coaches Deserved Better [OPINION]
This post is the sole opinion of Sports Director Dave Overlund and does not necessarily reflect the views of others at the company.
On Tuesday we all heard the ridiculous news that St. Cloud State University, a school with over 11,000 students and the second-biggest school in the MNSCU system, is dropping the football program.
As an alum, broadcaster and fan of the football team, I am deeply saddened, shocked and dismayed not only at the team being cut, but the way it has been handled.
I have seen first hand the dedication of these athletes, playing through injuries and fighting their way back from surgeries to play the game they love and represent the school with honor and integrity.
I have spoken with coach Scott Underwood numerous times over the years, and have heard how much pride he takes in not only coaching football, but also in his unwavering dedication to raising the kids he recruits into being great men in the community.
The school tried to kill the program before, back in 2010, but the student body's voice was heard and an activity fee was raised to keep the program going. This time, no one was given the opportunity to have their voice heard: the students, the players, the coaches... no one.
The same situation occurred in 2016, with the men's and women's tennis, women's nordic skiing, men's cross country and men's indoor/outdoor track and field teams being cut amid accusations that the players and coaches were left in the dark until the final hour.
As senior linebacker Graham Miller noted on Twitter, SCSU apparently felt no remorse with how they handled the devastating decision to cut a program (or three) in 2016 and stuck to the same tactic this time around.
It was a heavy-handed move that came without warning, with the team holding its year-end banquet less than a month ago and no one having a clue that it was coming. The news comes two weeks from Christmas, with the players getting ready to visit their families and preparing for the spring semester.
The rumors started Tuesday morning but no one was saying anything officially. Slowly, players started making cryptic posts on social media and it became clear what was about to happen.
Finally, around 2 p.m., the dam broke and the news was official: football and men's/women's golf was being cut, while men's soccer was being added.
After the announcement, head football coach Scott Underwood, a man who just lost his livelihood in the blink of an eye after 18 years in St. Cloud, was left to sit and answer questions from the media. His players, lingering after hearing the devastating news, tried the best they could to answer questions that they likely hadn't even begun to fully process.
Not taking interview requests or even returning emails/calls: Athletic Director Heather Weems, who has now seen nine sports teams eliminated since taking the job in 2012, and school President Dr. Robbyn Wacker.
Wacker and Weems, who each make six figure salaries in part to be the people to deal with these difficult decisions and who are tasked with explaining them, went radio silent and left players, coaches and a school spokesman to deal with the fallout.
Are we okay with this being the standard in our community? On our local campus? Many of us have friends, relatives, kids and neighbors who played football at St. Cloud State.
Thanks for coming to St. Cloud State, paying your exorbitant tuition on time, dedicating every waking hour to football and academics for the last four years, but we are done with you because, you know, money. Oh, and by the way, good luck with the media- we aren't going to say anything today on your behalf outside of a written statement.
It's not a secret that St. Cloud State's enrollment has been dramatically shrinking year-by-year, going from 15,958 in 2012 to just 11,081 in 2018.
It is hard for me to believe that cutting the football team is the type of optic that would encourage students to choose St. Cloud State.
Somehow, Bemidji State University, with only 4,000 students, has managed to field a D1 hockey program in a state of the art new arena while also sustaining a D2 football program.
Minnesota State-Mankato not only has a #1-ranked D1 hockey program, but they also have one of the most prestigious D2 football programs in the country.
How about Minnesota-Duluth? With an enrollment roughly the same as St. Cloud State, they also have D1 hockey in a sparkling arena while supporting a nationally-known D2 football team.
Maybe the problem isn't the teams, athletes and coaches. Maybe the problem is the people at the top who are continually allowing this to happen. How many scapegoats need to be eliminated before we get to the bottom of the real problems at SCSU?